Toscana, Italy: 2016 (and back to 1992)


This is the second tea towel that my cousin Andrew bought for me, following his visit to England in May (See Tea Towel Blog dated 6/7/16).  I really love the style of this range of Italian tea towels: big, brilliant white background, thick, informative and a great map with a lot of detail.  Andrew lives in Florence with his wife and two children, so this tea towel of Tuscany is ‘home territory’ for him.

In 1992, John and I were invited to Andrew and Elena’s wedding  – an event definitely not to be missed.  I had spent quite a lot of time with Andrew as a child, both in England and Italy.  If my mother had been alive, she would definitely have been there. As I recall, I was the only representative of our family from from England, or did my memory fail me there?  While I may not remember the invitation list, I do remember the rest very clearly.  John and I had decided to go to Florence for a long weekend; John had never been to Italy before.  We went on a City Break with Page and Moy.  The plan was that I would let Aunty Eileen (Andrew’s mother) know which hotel we were staying in and our time of arrival; she would come and meet us there, have a meal together, show us where the church was and catch up on family gossip.  Simples, as they say in the advert but, of course, it never is.  The first thing that went wrong was that, at Heathrow Airport, the Page and Moy representative told us that our hotel arrangements had been changed.  They assured us that the hotel would be of the same standard and would be equally convenient.  That may be fine for a sightseeing holiday, but they weren’t going to a family wedding where our contact point was our hotel.  The second disaster, which wouldn’t have been a disaster if Page and Moy hadn’t changed the arrangements, was that the wedding invitation was sitting on our kitchen table.  Let me remind readers, 1992 was before email, Internet and mobile phones; my aunt lived in Rome and I did not know what hotel she was staying in.  She didn’t know which company we were travelling with.  It would have been ok if I had Andrew’s address on me.  Why would I take my address book on holiday?  The answer is, to be prepared for such eventualities.  My address book was at home.  We asked the P&M rep what we should do; they had no idea.  Basically, we had no way of getting in touch with my aunt, or Andrew; we didn’t know which church he was getting married in or at what time.

Ever the pessimist, I had decided we would not be attending the wedding and had to make the most of a long weekend in Florence.  We settled in at our hotel, unpacked our wedding outfit, on the off-chance something good would happen.  We decided to go straight to the hotel we were going to stay in originally, in order to wait for my aunt.  When we got there, she had already been, had been told we weren’t staying there and been told that they had no idea where we were going to be staying.  Great.  We left a message with the concierge, for my aunt, just in case she called there again.  There was no reason why she should do that.  What now?   We returned to our hotel to decide what to do; we were going to need to eat and think of a plan.  Suddenly, the Hotel Manager came up to our room.  My aunt had been in contact while we were out and had left her hotel telephone number.  How had she found out where we were?  I rang her immediately.  The answer to that question was simples; I had forgotten the ‘wiles’ of my aunt.  She had rung the police to say that there was a family emergency and she needed to know which hotel I was staying in; she knew that all hotel guests complete a Registration Form and these forms are immediately forwarded to the police.  So they told her.  She was non-specific about the nature of the emergency so she hadn’t actually lied, maybe exaggerated, and from my point of view it was an emergency.  By this time, it was about 9pm.  We agreed it was too late to meet up but she gave me the name of the church, with directions.  We spent the evening wandering around Florence, in the dusk; we had a meal and found the church so we were prepared for the following day.  I slept well that night.

The wedding was in a beautiful, old Florentine church; the ceremony was carried out by John, Andrew’s brother who was a priest.  It was a typical Catholic Mass; long, full of ritual and incense, beautiful, all in Italian, full of poetry.  Afterwards we had a full, sit-down meal under umbrellas in a restaurant garden.  Of course, most of the guests were Italian but were keen to practice their English on us so we certainly didn’t feel on the edge of things.  It was a beautiful day which I am certainly glad I didn’t miss it; it left me with some very happy memories.  One thing I do remember is that I was dressed all in black: black polo-neck, long sleeved top, black skirt, black tights and black shoes with a striking (so I thought) floral jacket that looked as though it had been made out of Sanderson’s curtain fabric; I thought it was fabulous, my friends thought it was hideous.  In fact, I loved the outfit so much that I wore it the following January for my own wedding.

The day after the wedding, Aunty Eileen and Uncle Ferruccio took us to Siena for the day.  It was lovely; I’d never been to Siena before.  All that history, all those churches and their frescos, the old buildings, the gardens.  Absolutely stunning.  On the third day, John and I were left to ourselves to do all the touristy things in Florence.  I’d been there many years before so I knew what I would like to see.  We walked up the 476 steps of the Duomo; visited the Uffizi Gallery; ate ice cream since Florence is the birthplace of gelato; had pizza and coffee in one of the cafes on Piazza della Repubblica; walked over the Ponte Vecchio looking at the shops, although we were shocked by seeing hundreds of dead fish floating on the water of the River Arno (the result of contamination which was reported in all the newspapers); walked to the piazza above Florence with the statue of David.  Forbes describes Florence as “one of the most beautiful cities in the world” and it certainly is; around every corner is a statue, a fountain, an old church with frescos, fabulous piazzas and load of places to rest your feet and have a cool drink or ice cream.  Florence has been described as the birthplace of the Renaissance and everything you see reflects this.  I loved that long weekend in Florence, introducing John to both my family from Italy and to the Florence I had visited many years previously.  As I use this tea towel, I remember that weekend, the near disaster (from which I learned always to be prepared when you go on holiday) and the lovely few hours I spent with Andrew when he was in England in May this year.  Thank you Andrew.

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